Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, June 14th, 2012
Here’s the thing, though: that “other election” isn’t just two years away any more. It’s now less than five months away. And I for one believe the standard set out by Bill Clinton is an entirely reasonable one. We’ve given the president 21 additional months to turn things around. And guess what? It’s still not working.
This year’s first quarter growth rate was downgraded to 1.9 percent. The most recent jobs report was dismal (in May we gained less than 70,000 new jobs, while the jobs reports in March and April were revised downward). Long-term unemployment increased from 5.1 million to 5.4 million. The average work week fell to 34.4 hours. And new orders for factory goods fell in April for the third time in four months as demand slipped for everything from cars and machinery to computers, indicating alarming weakness in a sector that has carried the economic recovery, such as it is.
If we pull back the lens a bit, we find that Americans have experienced 40 consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent, the longest such stretch since the Great Depression. (If the work force participation rate today was what it was when Obama was sworn in, the unemployment rate would be right around 11 percent.) That Obama is overseeing the weakest recovery on record. That he’s on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era. That the standard of living for Americans has fallen more dramatically during his presidency than during any since the government began recording it five decades ago. That home values are nearly 35 percent lower than they were five years ago. That we’re seeing a record number of home foreclosures. That a record number of Americans are now living in poverty. That a record 46.4 million Americans are receiving food stamps. And that under Obama’s watch, health care premiums have gone up significantly.